Letter from Toko Kopu, Man Up Facilitator to Kelvin Davis
Open Letter from Toko Kopu, Man Up Facilitator emailed to Kelvin Davis Minister of Corrections.
Dear Minister Kelvin Davis,
I can’t pretend as a Maori I am not disappointed I have to write a letter with huge importance about serious issues affecting our people to another Maori.
Kanohi ki te Kanohi is how we should engage to discuss the Indigenous prison crisis that involves our people and what a practical solution might look like.
Three big taki that Corrections face is the rates of Maori incarceration, rates of Maori recidivism and recruitment of prisoners into gangs once released.
I was the President of an influential chapter of the Mongrel Mob and spent decades experiencing the broken system that fall into your hands to address. Thanks to Bishop and Man Up I am a man on a mission to pull more of our Maori men out of a racist cycle that keeps them inside.
I have written to you because
1) You are a Ngapuhi Maori and your tribe has more people behind bars than any tribe in the world. So I know you have a real passion to make a difference.
2) You are the senior Maori MP in Labour that represents the Tai Tokerau seat and
3) You are Corrections Minister with statutory power and influence inside your own caucus as the deputy leader to start initiating the foundations that will start reducing the %51 figure of the prison population being Maori.
Last week I got invited on the Breakfast TV show with our Man Up National Director Caine Warren. I told John Campbell about the man I was then and the man that I am today.
I have been incarcerated in our prisons for decades.
I saw hundreds even thousands of Maori men come through the criminal justice system. They take our freedom off us as punishment and then persecute us by breaking our spirit and destroying our wairua.
If we are one of the lucky ones to get out. The destruction to our soul and self well-being is often so damaged it leads us back to reoffending.
The system has never been good at helping men like me when behind bars or once released. The disappointment we burden ourself with when we leave is shame and failure. Your Mana is diminished and if noone is there to show you how to transform yourself then the self help phamplets correction staff give you is nothing more than a formal box ticking exercise.
I know being a Maori yourself this is not news to you as being from the North you must have many examples of your own whanau who have suffered under a system not designed for us.
I reckon most of my brothers would agree Bishop showed us what it means to have a father who loves us. This has taught me how to be a real father to my daughter who was born when I was in jail. Most of us that end up in there have not hand that strong male leader to look at growing up and that is why gangs continue to recruit from our prisons with little obstruction.
I joined the Mongrel Mob in 1976 when I was 15 to replace my family and my father. I walked away from it as the President of a chapter because Bishop was the first person who believed I had a purpose. Since walking away I have a happy wife and a real relationship that grows each day with my daughter.
Anyway Bro you have made some comments in the last week to media that made me feel disappointed and disheartened about how you look at guys like me. I am concerned that you hold these views as a Maori who is also the Minister Responsible for the same group of people you publicly dismissed in front of the country.
When you told New Zealand that you had not fallen under Bishops spell and you felt sorry for the people that have. You are directly offending me and my brothers by suggesting that we do not have the ability to decide for ourselves which path we want to take in life. And Kelvin, wouldn’t you have to agree that right now the path I have taken with Bishop and Man Up is far greater for me as a man and my whanau then if I was still distributing large amounts of methamphetamine into vulnerable communities.
A lot of people say things about Bishop but last week all I could hear was a man fighting for us and receiving nasty out of character responses from you.
If I can change the man I was to the man that I am because of Bishop and Caine using Man Up as the tool. Then I don’t care about your obligations as the Minister. But as a Maori, I expect you to feel and obligation that this is some thing you should be looking to champion as the Minister or at the very least something you should be sending some officials over to come and take a look.
And hey, it is not like the numbers are not visible to the naked eye when you see thousands of Man Up crew arrive at parliament. I know you were unable to join us and we are grateful the Justice Minister Andrew Little spoke to us. He has truly shown dignity and integrity when dealing with Man Up and Bishop, and kept the personalities to the side. I would ask you now Kelvin if you could give our movement the same courtesy of allowing us to show what we can do with out prejudice.
Our Maori leaders should be working together, not acting intimidated by what somebody has built to get results.
Our success means your success and we can definitely achieve it together.
A broken system creates broken people. I know because I was one of them.
So I am asking you, make some time and lets all catch up for a kai and korero.